COLUMBIA, S.C. -The past two seasons, South Carolina and coach Steve Spurrier kicked off the college football season with a Thursday night game on ESPN.
Spurrier expects the Gamecocks to do it again in 2008.
A year ago, South Carolina led things off with Spurrier's debut game, a 24-15 victory over UCF. This season, ESPN is opening its football coverage with the Gamecocks at Mississippi State.
Spurrier said Sunday he thought the network planned to have South Carolina take on an out-of-conference opponent like North Carolina State on the Thursday before its first big football weekend.
"Hopefully, that has helped our recruiting a little bit," Spurrier said. "And ESPN is going to put us on again I think in 2008. I believe we're scheduled."
If the Wolfpack are the opponent, it won't be the first time the Gamecocks have battled them in a high-profile game. In 1999, South Carolina went to Raleigh to start the Lou Holtz era. That did not go so well for the Gamecocks or Holtz as they lost to North Carolina State 10-0 in a drenching rain brought by Tropical Storm Dennis.
Spurrier likes the spotlight shining on his second-year program. The early game in Starkville, Miss., means South Carolina got a few less days to get ready, along with starting against a Southeastern Conference opponent.
"It was certainly worth the trade off to be opening college football Thursday night on national TV," Spurrier said.
The Gamecocks get another shot at Thursday night prime-time this season, taking on Auburn at Williams-Brice Stadium on Sept. 28.
TRIPLE THREAT: South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier says that senior Syvelle Newton is nearly 100 percent recovered from his Achilles tendon injury and could be used in several spots against Mississippi State on Thursday night.
"As far as running with the ball in his hands," Spurrier said Newton "looks very much like he did last year."
That's bad news for Gamecock opponents.
Newton was used at quarterback, running back and wide receiver last fall, the first time Spurrier had given one player so many roles on offense. And Newton performed exceptionally against Vanderbilt last fall, throwing two touchdowns and running for a third in the Gamecocks 35-28 victory.
But Newton snapped his left Achilles tendon on his touchdown run. He needed surgery and missed the rest of the season. It was still a question as late as this summer whether Newton would be ready this year and take a redshirt season and return in 2007.
Newton, though, participated in fall camp and worked at several positions.
"We'll try and use him whatever way we think we need to try to win the game," Spurrier said. "If we're struggling with the normal quarterback dropping back throwing, we may have to try Syvelle in there."
Newton is listed as a backup receiver on the team's depth chart.
FOLLOW THE RULES: Right now, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier doesn't see college football's latest rules changes forcing coaches to alter what they do.
One rule covers when the game clock starts after a change of possession. In the past, the clock began on the first snap. This year, it will go when the referee decides play is ready to begin.
"It's just going to be a little faster game," Spurrier said. "The way we played last year, we had a lot of fast games anyway."
Spurrier expects teams that want to save time will call the series' first play on the sidelines before the offense runs on the field. "If they want to slow it down, they will go out there and huddle up and stand around and snap it right under the gun there," he said.
Spurrier says the change from a 2-inch kicking tee to a 1-inch tee on kickoffs would likely mean fewer touchbacks and more returns.
Spurrier hasn't spent much time thinking about how he'll use his one replay challenge each game. He'll probably use it in the game's most important situations, he said.
"I doubt if we'd use it if somebody jumped offsides and they missed it," he said. "We're not really strategizing that much."